Quite Continental Charm School: Day 14 – Know Your Worth

11/03/2013 § 5 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

QC Charm School: Know Your Worth

Harry Winston’s rough stone expert Daniel Frey examines a 426-carat diamond called “The Unnamed,” in 1956.  At the time, the stone was the ninth largest on record and at a price of $8.4 million dollars, the largest diamond sale to date.  The stone eventually went on to become the Niarchos Diamond.  You can read about the stone and Harry Winston’s plans to cut and sell the diamond here.  Photograph by Ralph Morse for Life Magazine.

“We cannot think of being acceptable to others
until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.”
-Malcolm X

Day 14: Know Your Worth
Recently, in the context of witty cocktail banter and getting-to-know-yous, I was asked to name my biggest failure. While the answer that bounded forth – not being born an heiress – was technically true (apologies to Mom and Dad), the question stayed with me in the days after and I noticed that I was searching my soul for a deeper answer. As I sorted through all of my shoulda, coulda, wouldas, I realized that my biggest shortcoming was not a test I failed or a school I didn’t get into or a bad investment choice. Rather, in my heart of hearts, what I considered to be my biggest failure was something I had repeatedly done to myself within the context of my interpersonal relationships.

For some people, it seems practically second nature for them to identify their needs and then ask for them to be fulfilled. They ask their managers for a raise because they deserve more pay for their contributions at work. They ask their partners for better communication. They ask their friends for help through a difficult time. These are people I tend to envy because historically, it’s proven difficult at times for me to identify, let alone voice, the things I need.

This lead to spending a considerable amount of time in relationships, both personal and professional, where I wasn’t receiving what I needed, but I was hesitant to speak up. But why? Why did I accept something that was unacceptable, when I knew deep down that I needed more? Why did I always try to love – or work – myself through the subpar environment, hoping that fate would finally deal me a more favorable card? And while the relationships I speak of in this context were all very different, each with different circumstances and players, and occurred at different stages of my life, I don’t think that it was simply a random result of bad luck. While I can’t explain to you why others treated me the way they did, I definitely believe one of the reasons I kept sticking around has to do with what I thought I deserved.

Self-worth can be a tricky thing to monitor. It’s not like there’s an index that you can check every morning to see how it happens to be fluctuating or a bank account you can easily transfer funds into when you’re a bit low. Instead, I find my thoughts about my own value are most frequently triggered by negative experiences or conditions, and it is my response (or lack thereof) that has a direct impact on my internal barometer.  Taking ownership of my self-worth, instead of appraising myself in relation to how others treat me, has been a remarkably empowering process.

Today, I want us to work on valuing ourselves. Everyone deserves all the happiness and love and friendship and success that their hearts can hold and that you shouldn’t accept anything less.  No matter what you might have experienced in the past, you are worth someone’s very best today. But also remember that this probably won’t happen if you just sit there and wish for it. So when that internal voice points out that your needs aren’t being met in a personal (or professional) relationship, you owe it to yourself to honor that feeling and to clearly ask for what you need, as difficult as that may be. Speak plainly and calmly and choose a time to broach the subject when you feel your audience is receptive. Avoid blaming; instead, talk about how you feel now and how you would like to feel in the future.

There is a very good chance that your partner/father/coworker/friend has no idea what you’re missing, and would do whatever they could to make sure you received it – but if you don’t give them that chance to meet you halfway, they very likely won’t. I’m definitely guilty of this. I can’t tell you why in the past I thought that my partners should intuit what I wanted and needed out of a relationship, but I can tell you that when they didn’t read my mind (surprise, surprise) I would get frustrated, and that frustration would silently fester until it ripened into resentment — a stealthy silent killer of intimacy.

Consequently, you’ve got to be patient, but honest. Granted, it takes time to change behavior, but if after you’ve clearly communicated your needs you find the other party unwilling – or perhaps unable – to rise to the occasion, you have to admit that to yourself and remember that you deserve exactly as much success, love and support as you need.  Just because you aren’t currently being fulfilled, doesn’t mean it’s your fault or what you deserve.  There is someone somewhere who will happily provide exactly what you want and need, and you’ve got to value yourself enough to make yourself available. Deciding to stick around, unsatisfied, means that you are closing yourself off from finding that happiness and I’m definitely hard pressed to think of anything less charming than that.

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
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QC 2012 Gift Guide: The Lover

19/12/2012 § Leave a comment

For those on your naughty list:

QC Gift Guide: The LoverFrom top L to R:
Delta of Venus by Anais Nin
ID Sarrieri Secret November Triangle Bra and V-Bikini 
Equipment silk robe 
Christian Louboutin Vampanodo 100 satin and suede sandals
Kiki de Montparnasse Love is Blind silk blindfold
Frette Hotel Collection bed linens
Stubbs & Wootton black velvet slippers (on sale!)
The Macallan 18 year Scotch
Vintage issue of Playboy Magazine (via eBay)

Love, Parisian Style

24/05/2012 § 2 Comments

I don’t know this lovely couple personally, but I do know the groom is one half of the duo behind Rogue Territory, an excellent Los Angeles-based handmade denim goods company.  Nor do I personally know the photographer who shot this, but I do know he is the exceptionally talented Duncan Wolfe.  What else do I know?  That this film is perfect and beautiful and that I was left speechless after viewing it…and wanting to hop the next flight to CDG.  And while I don’t generally talk about weddings and such on here, I had to share.  It’s that good.

Congrats K & L.
May your life together be as filled with love and beauty
as these 4 minutes and 29 seconds are.

Many thanks to Ryan for the tip.

The Perils of Love

14/05/2012 § 2 Comments

  Loving this sweet little Parisian confection by Louis Clichy.

To see Edith Piaf and Théo Sarapo sing “A Quoi Ça Sert L’amour?” live, head here.
Many thanks to Tara for bringing this to my attention.

Featured: QC on Miss Moss

06/03/2012 § 1 Comment

Was very pleased to write a guest post for Diana, of the amazing blog Miss Moss, about L’amour Fou, the excellent documentary detailing the 50 year relationship of designer Yves Saint Laurent and his longtime partner, Pierre Bergé.

Head here to read it.

More of my Great Loves posts can be found here.

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 18 — Date with Great Charm

18/02/2012 § 2 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Mariemont High School Prom, photo by Francis Miller for Life.

Day 18: Date with Great Charm
Dating: the inescapable social custom most all of us go through to find a mate.  In this era of Match.com and sexting and status updates, the world captured in the photo above can seem like light years away.  While I’m definitely not advocating we all go back to the 1950s, I do believe dating has definitely lost a bit of the charm it once had.  We will have to take it upon ourselves to spark something of a revolution.  Below, a few humble suggestions on how to be a dater with great charm:

The Ask

  • First and foremost, make clear that you are asking for a date.  Obvious?  Count how many times you’ve heard: “Well, I’m not sure if it’s a date…”  A charming dater will make sure the datee knows they are being asked out.  It makes the datee feel more secure and frankly, more desired.
  • Make concrete plans in advance.  When a charming dater asks someone out, they have a plan in mind.  They don’t vaguely promise to text them next Friday to “figure something out.”  This is apt to make a datee feel like a lower priority.  If you can’t be bothered to think of what you’d like to do with them, why should they wait around until you figure it out?
  • Give notice.  A charming dater will give their desired datee a few days notice, so as not to disrupt plans already in place.
  • Anyone can ask.  Men are not always required to ask, and if a lady take it upon herself to ask, the same rules on clarity, plans and notice definitely apply.
  • Make a personal gesture.  Asking in person is best, followed by a telephone call…where you actually talk to the person, no messages left on their voicemail, please.  Your charm diminishes inversely if you rely upon: texting, Facebooking, Tweeting, and all other forms of social media.
  • Accept or decline promptly.  Period.  And thank them either way.
  • If you accept you go.  Barring any serious emergencies, you should go on a date you have accepted, even if Brad Pitt himself appears on your doorstep.  A charming datee honors their commitments.  And Brad will wait because you’re obviously that fabulous.
  • Have high standards.  If you receive a request that falls short of the above, ask for a revision.  They will either respect you for having high standards or think you a pain in the ass and lose interest.  I humbly suggest that someone who considers these tiny requests too onerous will likely prove not worth your while in the long run.

The Date

  • Be on time.  No matter if you are arriving to pick them up, or being picked up, or meeting there.  Being prompt shows respect.
  • On a first date, avoid the topics of religion, politics and past relationships.  A first date is for figuring out if you actually like the person, and you’ll have plenty of time to discuss such matters at a later time…if the date goes well.
  • No introspective soliloquies.  You already know all about yourself, a charming dater will want to find out what makes their prospective partner tick.  Ask thoughtful questions, listen, and remember.  Conversely, your prospective partner should be doing the same to you.  Beware dates who can only talk about themselves.
  • If it is not a love match, be gracious.  Even if you don’t sense any chemistry, you can definitely be polite and have an enjoyable time.  They might prove to be an excellent friend or know someone you might be better suited for or be a good business contact.  At any rate, burning bridges is for short-sighted, uncharming people
  • Whoever asked, pays.  However, this rule has one gender-specific corollary for hetero dates: in general, a gentleman pays — but the lady should always go for “the reach.”  I agree it isn’t fair, but it is social custom.  If you feel strongly about it, there’s no need to adhere to it.

The Close

  • Always leave them wanting more.  Do you best to end the date on a high note.  First (and even second) dates don’t need to be epic 18 hour affairs.
  • Positive affirmation.  If you had a good time, let your date know.  Similarly let them know if you’d like to see them again.  A charming dater affirms that they enjoyed the evening because it will reinforce the fact that they are interested in the datee, leaving no vagaries to be endlessly dissected at brunch the following morning.
  • Sexytime is at your discretion.  No hard and fast rules here, as I’m definitely not a priss.  I’m not against a first date kiss or three, but I might caution against first date sexytime though.  I believe that relationships are defined by early actions, so if you sleep with someone early, your relationship might end up revolving around sex.  If that is what you want, go forth.  If you want something more, be purposeful in deciding when to make the love.

For the Veterans

  • If you make it special, they’ll feel special.  Long-term relationships can easily fall into a rut, but you can recapture some of the magic by applying some of the tips I mentioned above.  Call your partner at work and tell him you’ve made reservations at his favorite restaurant for Friday.  Ask her about her day and really listen.  Bring flowers.

What are your dating rules?  How do you make or keep it special?

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Great Loves: Nellie and Coach Wooden

14/02/2012 § 3 Comments

After she passed away in 1985, Coach Wooden wrote his wife Nellie — his first, last and true love — a love letter every month.

Interviewer: How do you make love last in a marriage?
Coach: There’s only one way.  Truly truly truly love.  Most powerful thing there is.  It’s true, it’s true.  It must be true.

For more of my Great Loves posts, head here.

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 14 – Write Love Letters

14/02/2012 § 2 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Waverly Place, New York, 1968. Image via the George Eastman House.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I hope you are having a wonderful day filled full of all sorts of love!  The city felt quite festive today, with lots of flowers and balloons on the subway.  Always nice to see New Yorkers excited for love.  We’re not quite as cynical as movies would have you think!

Day 14: Write Love Letters
On a day that celebrates affection, today’s tip for a charmed life suggests you make record of your love in a concrete manner.  Nothing is more romantic, more touching or more timeless than the art of writing love letters.

While momentous when said the first time, it is possible that “I love you” can sometimes become something of an aside, a routine.  When you write down how you feel about someone, it allows you to explain all that your “I love yous” have symbolized: how much you admire them, how much you respect them, how much you desire them.  Things they might have felt (or maybe not!), and things they should be told.

A few guidelines:

  • Love letters don’t need to be novels — if you’re feeling exceptionally stuck, try starting out with short notes.
  • You’ll always get bonus points if you deliver your love letters in an original way — I like tucking them inside the book you’re reading, attaching them to your bath towel so you’ll see it in the morning, or sending them in the mail to your office.
  • Lastly, I will admit that this post was in part inspired by the letters of Clementine and Winston Churchill, but I don’t want you to think that this only can be applied to romantic relationships.  Some of my favorite valentines of all time are those sent to me by my friends and by my parents, in fact — hearing that my friends and family care for me is something I could never tire of!

Taking the time to tell someone how much you love them only opens you up to receive more love.  It is classy, it is fabulous, and it is charming.  Could there be a better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day?

See also: 28 Days of Classy & Fabulous: Be Your Own Valentine (2011)

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Sitting In A Tree

14/02/2012 § Leave a comment

State Library of New South Wales.
State Library of New South Wales.
Galt Museum & Archives.
Australian War Memorial Collection.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Great Loves: Clementine and Winston

12/02/2012 § 1 Comment

In the month of February,
my mind always turns to great love stories…

Engagement photo of Winston Churchill and Clementine Hozier, 1908.

[12 August 1908]

Blenheim Palace

My dearest,

How are you? I send you my best love to salute you: & I am getting up at once in order if you like to walk to the rose garden after breakfast & pick a bunch before you start. You will have to leave here about 10:30 & I will come with you to Oxford.

Shall I not give you a letter for your Mother?

Always

W.

{Winston’s letter to Clementine the morning after she accepted his proposal.  He inquires if he should write a letter of engagement to present to her mother.}

(The morning after my engagement August 1908)

Blenheim Palace

My dearest

I am very well – Yes please give me a letter to take to Mother– I should love to go to the rose garden.

Yours always
Clementine

During their 56 year marriage, Clementine and Winston wrote frequently to each other when they were apart — and even when they were home together — usually calling each other by pet names and including drawings.
He was her “pug,” she was his “cat”

15 September 1909 Kronprinz Hotel

Wurzburg

My darling, We have been out all day watching these great manoeuvres. . . .

I have a very nice horse from the Emperor’s stable, & am able to ride about wherever I chose with a suitable retinue. As I am supposed to be an ‘Excellency’ I get a vy good place. Freddie on the other hand is ill-used. These people are so amazingly routinière that anything the least out of the ordinary – anything they have not considered officially & for months–upsets them dreadfully….I saw the Emperor today & had a few mintues’ talk with him. He is vy sallow–but otherwise looks quite well. . . . .

We have had a banquet tonight at the Bavarian palace. A crowd of princes & princelets & the foreign officers of various countries. It began at 6 p.m. & was extremely dull. . . .

This army is a terrible engine. It marches sometimes 35 miles in a day. It is in number as the sands of the sea–& with all the modern conveniences. There is a complete divorce between the two sides of German life–the Imperialists & Socialist. Nothing unites them. They are two different nations. With us there are so many shades. Here it is all black & white (the Prussian colours). I think another 50 years will see a wiser & gentler world. But we shall not be spectators of it. Only the P.K. will glitter in a happier scene. How easily men could make things much better than they are–if only all tried together! Much as was attracts me & fascinates my mind with its tremendous situation–I feel more deeply every year–& can measure the feeling here in the midst of arms–what vile & wicked folly & barbarism it all is.

Sweet cat–I kiss your vision as it rises before my mind. Your dear heart throbs often in my own. God bless you darling keep you safe & sound.

Kiss the P.K. for me all over

With fondest love

W.

[drawing]

This is the galloping pug–for European travel.

{P.K. meant “puppy kitten” — their first child}

Your loving Puss Cat.

This is the cat…not so good as your dog, but her eyes are flashing so that she is obliged to turn her back.

Clem

Images via Life Archives, Library of Congress.  Letters via Daily Mail, Library of Congress.

More great love stories:

Kate and Spencer
Joanne and Paul
Elizabeth and Richard
Marilyn and Joe
Bacall and Bogart

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